Hope for an Anti-Malaria Vaccine

anophelesAlthough it is more than 200 years since Jenner’s pioneering work on vaccination, there are still many infectious diseases that resist the development of effective vaccines. Somewhat shockingly, despite years of research effort, there are still no highly effective vaccines against human parasitic diseases. Malaria, the most problematic of these, kills more than half a million people each year—many of these infants and children, qualifying the mosquito that transmits the parasite as one of the most dangerous creatures on earth. Not surprisingly then, recent hopeful news of an anti-malaria vaccine that appears to protect against the disease has been greeted with enthusiasm.

The search for an effective anti-malaria vaccine has been fraught with difficulty due to the complex life cycle of the parasite (Plasmodium falciparum and other Plasmoduim species), compounded by its propensity to change its surface composition and develop resistance to various treatment efforts. The parasite thus presents an ever-changing target for treatment efforts. In the absence of an effective vaccine, anti-malarial efforts have been dependent on drug treatment (also liable to development of resistance), eradication programs, and preventive measures such as insecticide-laced mosquito netting. Continue reading “Hope for an Anti-Malaria Vaccine”

Innate Immune Memory in Mosquitoes: The Latest Buzz in the Fight against Malaria

Research on Malaria, World Health Organisation/Institut Pasteur. Female mosquito with body swollen with blood of person she has bitten. It is at this stage that the Malaria parasite is passed to the victim.

For many of us mosquitoes are an itchy aggravation. They come in the evenings in the warmer months. They disrupt hikes, camping trips and picnics, leaving behind itching reminders that have us reaching for antihistamines and no-itch creams. For people in some areas of the world however, mosquitoes are more than just a pest with an itchy calling card, they are a deadly menace. Mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles can carry Plasmodium, the parasitic micro-organism that causes malaria.

According to the World Health Organization, there were an estimated 243 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2008. Most of these cases were in Africa, followed by South-East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean (1). In that year, malaria caused an estimated 863,000 deaths, and tragically, the majority of these deaths were in children younger than five. Continue reading “Innate Immune Memory in Mosquitoes: The Latest Buzz in the Fight against Malaria”